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409th RRD
Don Collins
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Wednesday, July 14, 1999
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409th RRDet
11th Armored Cav Regiment
Don Collins
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After about ten months, in early February 1967, I was transferred to the 409th Radio Research Detachment, supporting the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, and based at Long Gioa, about 20 miles east of Xuan Loc. They were rather unique for an ASA unit, because they operated out of modified Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicles (ACAVs). The tracks had quite a bit of firepower, and they operated pretty boldly for an ASA unit.

One day, one of the ACAVs was operating out of a Special Forces camp when one of the Special Forces patrols came under attack near the camp. The 409th guys saddled-up, went to their aid, and severely pounded the small Viet Cong unit, allowing the Special Forces patrol to casually stroll home. This is the only time I have ever heard of an ASA unit attacking something.

I was only there about four months, but towards the end of my tour I went out with them on Junction City II. We went up to An Loc for a while, and then started maneuvering around in the area near Lai Khe, finally ending up on the Michelin plantation at Dou Teng.

Life in the armored unit was a pleasant change from being in an infantry unit. For one thing, you got to ride to work, and didn't have to carry anything on your back. Also, before going on an operation, we would always stop by the PX and load a three-week supply of pop and beer into the back of the track. At night we would close the track up, seal the periscopes, and play Hearts and drink beer. Now this is the way to fight a war.

We stayed at Dou Teng for awhile. A brand-spanking-new Second Lieutenant had arrived, and toward the end was left with us for few days by himself. We were all seasoned veterans, and would keep him out of too much trouble. Well, one night they started walking mortars in on us. At first we weren't sure what it was, because there was a firebase several miles away in that direction, and initially we all thought the noise was coming from the firebase. The Lieutenant was the first to realize what was happening, and, good-hearted person that he was, decided he had to save the men, low-crawling over to the tent everyone else was sleeping in. It had been raining all night, and the doorway to the tent was a big depressed puddle of water. About the time he was low-crawling through the puddle, everyone else in the tent figured out what was going on, and ran out the door, firmly imbedding the Lieutenant in the bottom of the puddle. Two guys had to go back and get him.

409th RRDet - 11th ACR - Long Giao

Here are some pictures of the 409th area (11th Armored Cavalry) at Long Giao, 15 miles or so from Xuan Loc. The first two were probably taken in March of 1967. The third was probably April.

The first picture is the tent area in the center of the compound.

The second was our operations area. The nearest quonset hut held the communications center in the front, and the maintenance shop (where I worked) in the back The far hut was the operations building and the CO's office.

Notice the sandbags. Please notice the sandbags! We sandbagged FOR FUCKING EVER!! Those bags are three or four rows deep. We would bust our butts all day filling sandbags, and at the end of the day you could hardly see the difference. It was extremely discouraging.

The last picture is kind of neat, it is an aerial shot of the entire 409th compound. The tent at the bottom center is the supply tent.Directly above it, with the little covered patio out back, is the CO's and XO's tent. Directly above that was my tent, and above that is the motor pool.About 2 o'clock from my tent, across the road is the Regimental MI detachment. We would constantly see prisoners being brought there for interrogation. It's amazing how many VC fell out of the truck while they were being helped off the truck (they were always blindfolded).

409th RRDet - 11th ACR - Operation Junction City II

These are some pictures taken on the first day of Junction City II. The first two pictures were taken during a lunch break near Di An, near Siagon.

The last is just a shot taken as we passed through a village on Route 13. We were moving from our base at Long Giao to an area north of An Loc.

409th RRDet- 11th ACR - An Loc

These are some pictures from the firebase at An Loc during Junction City II, during late April 1967. We operated there for about 7 to 10 days.

The first picture is our tracks at An Loc. We had two separate teams there, and we put them together to make our own little ops area. Notice that the unit markings have been taped over.

The second is some of the guys early in the morning. Apparently I was the first one up this morning. Notice the shower hanging from the 50 Cal, got to use it for something.

The next one is one of the 155's firing. We were actually that close to the guns. It really started getting to us after a while, and finally the team leader, a Special Forces sergeant on the last month of his third tour, went whacko on us and had to be evacuated. I lost 10% of my hearing while I was there.

Next is a picture of the guns when they weren't firing.

And last is a picture taken a little later in the operation. We were in Lai Khe, getting ready to move out. The picture is kind of neat, because it shows the gun mounts on our tracks.
409th RRDet -11th ACR - Operation Manhattan

After about ten days or so, Junction City II came to an end and the 11th Cav regrouped at Lai Khe. In a few days another operation started, which I believe was called "Manhattan." My team was assigned to the 3rd Squadron. Basically we wandered around the jungle in our tracks in the jungle near Lai Khe.

This would be May of 1967.

The first picture is some of the 11th Cav tracks getting ready. Don't know what the story is on the standard M113 APC that is in the picture. I think it might have belonged to the vehicle maintenance unit, that was across the road from us.

Next is some of the 409th guys breaking camp.

The third picture is what it was like going through the jungle. The ACAV's didn't have enough power or weight to bust through the jungle, so they would put a M48 tank in the lead breaking trail. Then the ACAV's would follow along in a single column. In a lot of places the foliage would be right up against the side of the track, and it was very disconcerting to realize that a VC could be six feet away in that bush, and you'd never know it.

The last picturel was taken on the evening of the first night. We had set up camp, and then they detected a VC patrol in the tree line on the other side of the field. They called in artillary, and pounded the whole area. In the picture you can see it hitting. The picture isn't too good, because it was dusk.
Chinese Communist-VC Radios

During Operation Manhattan the 3rd Squadron overran a VC headquarters. While searching the headquarters they found two VC radios, which they gave to us.

The first is a current model Chinese transmitter-receiver.

The second is a Korean War vintage US radio, that had French nameplates riveted over the English labels. There was no way for the VC to get batteries for it, and there was some blue bell wire coming out of it to be hooked up to a hand-cranked generator. This radio clearly had some history.

The last picture is both of them together, and yes, that is a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon under the seat in the track.

409th RRDet- 11th ACR - Dou Tieng

Toward the end of Manhattan, my track ended up with the forward HQ in the Michelin Plantation at Dou Tieng (sp?).

The first picture is my track at Lai Khe before the operation. It happened to be in the wrong place in my album.

Next is the operations area at Dou Tieng.Remember the story of the Lt. that got buried in the mud during a mortar attack? The tent on the right is where it happened.

And last but not least is some of the tracks at Dou Tieng.
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